January 3, 1985 – July 24, 2002
|Preceded by||Lyle Williams|
|Succeeded by||Timothy J. Ryan|
|Born||May 8, 1941
|Spouse(s)||Patricia "Tish" Choppa Traficant|
James Anthony Traficant, Jr. (born May 8, 1941) is a former Democratic Representative in the United States Congress from Ohio (from 1985 to 2002). He represented the 17th Congressional District, which centered around his hometown of Youngstown and includes parts of three counties in northeast Ohio's Mahoning Valley. He was expelled after being convicted of taking bribes, filing false tax returns, racketeering, and forcing his aides to perform chores at his farm in Ohio and on his houseboat in Washington, D.C., and was released from prison on September 2, 2009, after serving a seven-year sentence.
Traficant's wife, Tish, has reportedly stated that he did not accept the DOJ's invitation to be supervised on early release by Richard J. Billak (the CEO of CCA). Billak had testified against him during Traficant's 2002 Federal Bribery trial.
Born into a working-class, Catholic family in Youngstown, Ohio, Traficant graduated from Cardinal Mooney High School in 1959 and the University of Pittsburgh in 1963 (where he was a standout in football), was drafted into the NFL at number 276 by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1963, and obtained a master's degree from the University of Pittsburgh and another from Youngstown State University. He was the executive director of the Mahoning County Drug Program from 1971 to 1981 and Sheriff of Mahoning County from 1981 to 1985. While serving as Sheriff, Traficant made national headlines by refusing to execute foreclosure orders on several unemployed homeowners, many of whom had been left unemployed by the recent closures of steel mills. This endeared him to the local population, which had long derived its wealth from steel and steel-associated businesses. In 1983, he was charged with racketeering for accepting bribes. Traficant, who represented himself in the criminal trial, argued that he accepted the bribes only as part of an undercover investigation into corruption. Traficant was acquitted of the charges, becoming the only person ever to win a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) case while representing himself.
Publicity from the RICO trial increased Traficant's local visibility. He was elected as a Democrat to Congress from Ohio's 17th District, defeating Lyle Williams, a three-term Republican incumbent. He was reelected eight times without serious opposition.
On April 12, 2002, after a two-month federal trial, a jury found Traficant guilty of bribery and other charges. He was sentenced to a federal prison, where he served seven years. He was expelled from the U.S. Congress on July 24, 2002.
In the House, Traficant was known for his flamboyant and eccentric style. He was a constant thorn in the side of the Democratic caucus with his eccentric behavior, an image he embraced. He often dressed poorly, with narrow neck ties (then out of style), wide-lapelled sportcoats and an occasional denim suit. He also sported an ugly, unkempt pompadour, which he jokingly claimed he cut with a weed whacker (it was revealed, after his conviction, that he wore a toupee). Casting himself as a rough-hewn populist and "regular guy," he gave speeches that were far outside the staid norms of political speaking. Many people tuned into C-SPAN just to watch his one-minute speeches at the beginning of each day's sitting. His trademark closing lines were "Beam me up... I yield back the fact..." His Website featured a picture of him swinging a two-by-four with the words "Bangin' away in D.C."
After the Republicans took control of the House in 1995, Traficant tended to vote more often with the Republicans than with his own party. On abortion, for instance, Traficant voted the pro-life position of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) 95% of the time in the 105th Congress, and 100% of the time in the 106th and 107th Congresses. However, he voted against all four articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton. After he voted for Republican Dennis Hastert for Speaker of the House in 2001, the Democrats stripped him of his seniority and refused to give him a committee assignment. Because the Republicans did not assign him to any committee, Traficant became the first member of the House of Representatives in over a century without any committee assignment who was not in a leadership position.
Traficant championed the unpopular cause of John Demjanjuk, a Ukrainian-born autoworker from Seven Hills, who had been convicted in Israel and sentenced to hang for having been the brutal concentration camp guard "Ivan the Terrible." For almost a decade, Traficant was virtually alone (except for columnist Pat Buchanan) in insisting that Demjanjuk had been denied a fair trial and been the victim of mistaken identity; the Supreme Court of Israel eventually overturned the conviction, on the basis of doubt, in 1993. Demjanjuk was later deported to Germany on May 11, 2009, after the Supreme Court refused to overturn his deportation order.
While in Congress, Traficant was a supporter of immigration reduction, and a strong opponent of illegal immigration. In the controversy surrounding the defeat of Congressman Bob Dornan (R-CA) by Democrat Loretta Sanchez, Traficant was the only Democratic member of Congress who advocated a new election, due to possible voting in that race by illegal aliens. Sanchez would later introduce a bill expelling Traficant from the House of Representatives.
In 2002, Traficant was indicted on federal corruption charges for taking campaign funds for personal use. Again, he opted to represent himself, insisting that the trial was part of a vendetta against him dating to his 1983 trial. On April 15, he was convicted of 10 felony counts including bribery, racketeering, and tax evasion.
After Traficant's conviction, July 16, 2002, the House Committee Standards of Official Conduct convened a misconduct hearing and heard testimony from Richard Detore, who testified on Traficant's behalf (broadcast on C-SPAN).
Detore testified that the U.S. Attorney Craig Morford, Cleveland prosecutor on the case was witness tampering, committing criminal prosecutorial misconduct related to the alleged Youngstown, Ohio's Cafaro Company's involvement in tax fraud and mafia money-laundering. Cafaro intended for his daughter, Capri Cafaro to run against Traficant in the next congressional election. Capris told Detore that J. J. Cafaro perjured himself throughout his own trial, and that it caused problems for his family. The prosecutor threatened that the Internal Revenue Service would audit him if he did not testify according to a "script", and that he would prove Detore committed bank fraud, which was false. Morford continuously attempted to harass, agitate and intimidate, "yelling, screaming, and throwing papers at" Defore for being "uncooperative", and he "was getting on the wrong train". Detore refused to lie for anyone for any reason, and refused to testify. Detore's home was ransacked. Morford had granted him direct and indirect immunity, but denied it, after Detore refused to testify. "It was a process by ambush... an out-of-body experience." Even with exculpatory evidence, Morford indicted Detore with one count of conspiracy to violate the Federal Bribery Statute by serving as liaison between his former employer, U.S. Aerospace Group, and Traficant, but was acquitted by a jury. See C-SPAN videos: here.
Ohio Congressman Ted Strickland was so disturbed by these sworn and televised allegations of DOJ misconduct that he publicly called for an investigation. But DOJ 'internal affairs' ignored Strickland, never investigating either the sworn military earwitness affidavit or the attorney billing records that corroborated the dates/times of harassing witness tampering phone calls testified to on C-SPAN and in the affidavit.
The House Ethics Committee recommended that Traficant be expelled from Congress. On July 24 the House voted 420-1 to expel him. Gary Condit was the lone "no" vote, and nine members voted "present." Traficant was the first representative to be expelled since Michael Myers's expulsion in 1980 as a result of the Abscam scandal.
After his expulsion, Traficant ran as an independent candidate for another term in the House while incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institute, Allenwood. He received 15 percent of the vote (27,487 votes) and became one of only a handful of individuals in the history of the United States to run for a federal office from prison. The election was won by one of his former aides, Tim Ryan.
Traficant served his first 17 months in prison at FCI Allenwood and shortly after, he was shackled and put in solitary confinement for causing a riot after telling a guard, "People can't hear you. Speak up." For nine months, beginning in March 2004, he served with 20 inmates in one locked room at the Federal Correctional Institution Raybrook with a public commode, and with four in a room at Federal Medical Center, Rochester for three years. He was admonished by prison officials in Raybrook he was only a "few points away" from a penitentiary. In the seven years of incarceration, he refused any visitors because he didn't want anyone to see him. He wore his hair in a pony tail without his trademark hairpiece. Traficant took up artwork while in prison; according to his wife, he did not have access to a computer there . "I understood the dynamics of prison life." Regarding the overcrowded prison system he said, "And now what you have is, they want to keep the prisons open, keep the jobs going. They're putting 20, 30 years on some of these young people, and it's out of hand." He was released on September 2, 2009, at age 68, and is subject to three years of probation.
While in prison, Traficant received support from David Duke, who urged visitors to his personal website to donate to Traficant's canteen fund. Duke also posted a letter written by Traficant stating that he was targeted by the U.S. Department of Justice for, among other things, defending John Demjanjuk. Traficant also claimed, in the letter, that he knew facts about "Waco, Ruby Ridge, Pan Am Flight 103, Jimmy Hoffa and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy", which he may divulge in the future. Author Michael Collins Piper, who initially helped circulate Traficant's letter, said that "There's stuff I've written about Traficant that's showing up in places I don't even know. It's like (six) degrees of separation with the Internet now," and denied that Traficant had any direct connections to Duke.
Traficant was released from prison on September 2, 2009 after serving seven years in prison. On September 6, 2009, 1200 supporters welcomed him home at a banquet with an Elvis impersonator and a Traficant look-a-like contest. "Welcome home Jimbo" was printed on T-shirts. "I think it's time to tell the FBI and the IRS that this is our country and we're tired -- tired of the pressure, tired of the political targeting, tired of a powerful central government that is crippling America," he said. Traficant said he hasn't decided yet whether he will run again for Congress, and that he forfeited his future. He also said he doesn't care about what anyone did to him or does to him in the future. "I'm going to say what I think is right, I'm going to do what I think is right," he said. "And if it offends some people, then so be it. You see, because I'm still, I guess, the same jackass I was."
In an interview with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren, he said he was the top target of AIPAC and the U.S. Justice Department. Traficant denied he is anti-Semitic, but said that "They [The Zionist extremists in the USA and Israel] control much of the media, they control much of the commerce of the country, and they control powerfully both bodies of the Congress. They own the Congress." He said he had predicted another economic depression, and people just laughed at him. Traficant has also expressed his support of the Fair Tax plan and criticized President Obama's stimulus bill. He has said of Congress, "I think it is a big whorehouse and they better start taking care of America and stop worrying about the Middle East and worry about the Midwest." 
After his release from prison, he was featured as a guest speaker at a Tea Party Protest in Columbiana, Ohio.  He has also committed to speaking at an American Free Press-sponsored event in Washington D.C. in February. 
|United States House of Representatives|
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Ohio's 17th congressional district
January 3, 1985 – July 24, 2002
James Anthony "Jim" Traficant, Jr. (born 1941-05-08) was a Democratic Representative in the United States Congress from 1981 to 2002. He was expelled from Congress after being convicted of accepting bribes, filing false tax returns, and racketeering.